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  1. #1

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    How to Wash and Dry Microfiber Towels and Cloths (by Captain Obvious)

    Someone asked recently asked "How do I clean my microfibers"? Please reference the thread:
    Help with Towel Choices and Process
    This detailing topic/subject keeps coming up again-and-again, so rather than add (and bury) my somewhat lengthy response within the above referenced thread, I will start a new one in this "Member`s How-To Library" sub-forum. Read on.


    Here are my Captain Obvious thoughts on cleaning and washing microfiber cloths. You can take them with a grain of salt, as most of this information written here is from my own personal cleaning experience or that gleaned from topic discussions posted in this forum over its many years. I do not claim to be a cleaning expert, nor is this the definitive "end-all-be-all" thread on microfiber cleaning and washing.

    First, I have to talk about washing machines. Here`s my first question about that:
    When was last time you cleaned your washing machine? What do you mean and why am I asking? Because most home owners have NEVER cleaned their washing machine and with the cleaning and washing processes I will outline in this topic, chances are that grease/gunk/dirt that has built up over the years inside your washing machine can (and will) transfer to your microfibers during the wash process. Depending on what you wash in it, how often you use it and its age, and type of washing machine, chances are there is the fore-mentioned gunk build-up between the outside of the tub and housing the tub spins in as it collects and drains the waste wash water.
    So the first step is CLEAN YOUR WASHING MACHINE if that has not been done a regular basis. You can check your owner`s manual for how to do that. My preference for a washing machine cleaning product is Affresh Washing Machine Cleaning Tablets and yes, they do make specific cleaners for the different types of washing machine; high-efficiency (HE) top loaders or HE front loaders. One suggestion is to use two to four old cotton bath towels in the tub, depending on the tub size, when doing this cleaning process. MOST wash machine cleaner products suggest this, as you want the loosened built-up gunk to be absorbed on some material and then discarded. If you don`t have any, my suggestion is to go to a Thrift Store/Shop or Garage/Yard/Rummage Sale and buy some "gently used" towels for this purpose.
    Another thought is if you wash your microfibers at a Public Laundromat, ask which machines have been cleaned recently. You know most individuals wash their dirtiest clothing (tar and grease) and bedding (camping excursions) at a Laundromat rather than at home, so what are the chances you will be washing your expensive microfibers next after a machine has been used for this purpose? Pretty good, unless you`ve visually observed what was washed last in that machine. I know that for some of you Autopians, this is the ONLY way to clean and wash your microfibers, so just beware.
    Even if your washing machine has not been cleaned, it still a good idea to check the tub or drum to see of there is any visible grease or gunk rings on them from the last wash of cloth materials. Who knows if someone has washed their auto oil-stained or road tar construction clothing in the washer unbeknownst to you and you are the next one to use that washer. IF you see some gunk on the tub or drum, I suggest taking a white cotton rag (flour sack cloth towels) OR heavy-duty blue paper shop toweling and spray some degreaser on it and wipe out the gunk as best you can. It may take several applications and wipes before all the gunk is removed. Then wipe it out again with a new/different clean cotton cloth or heavy-duty paper towel to remove and dry any trace of gunk residue dissolved by the degreaser.

    Suggestion Number 2:
    If they are brand-new microfiber towels, wash them BEFORE using them for the first time. You can avoid a lot of linting and insure they are, indeed, clean before you use them, AND wash out dyes in colored microfibers.
    Four (4) caveats to watch out for:
    1a) Separate the dark colors from the light colors and whites
    1b) If they are red, wash them separately (Yes, I made that mistake and now have some pink white towels.)
    2) Use the wash and drying methods outlined below, just like they were dirty.
    You can wash and rinse them BY HAND if you do not have access to a wash machine, wring them out by hand and hang them to dry. (Use the same sequential steps and instructions below for hand washing glass cleaning cloths)
    3a) DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER in the washer with microfiber clothes. It "coats" the fine fabric and makes them less absorbent.
    3b) DO NOT USE STATIC ELIMINATOR DRYER SHEETS in the dryer and use a medium to low-medium heat setting. NEVER use a hot setting, even in a rush to dry them quickly.
    4) If you hang them outside on clothes line;
    a) Wipe the line off to remove dirt and bird droppings from it before hanging the cloths on them
    b) Don`t do it if its extremely dry and windy outdoors when your next-door neighbor is cutting the lawn or in the fall when the leaves are coming off the trees. Grass and leaf litter gets embedded in the grabby, fluffy microfiber. (Yes, I made that mistake, too. It`s a pain to pick out tiny yard litter pieces from a towel)

    How to wash dirty microfiber towels and clothes
    Usually I pre-wash BY HAND all microfibers towels, EXCEPT the glass cleaning towels, using a degreaser, like Super Clean Products, LLC (formerly Castrol`s) Super Clean (the purple stuff) or OPT Power Clean , and tap water from a garden hose and spray nozzle attached to an outdoor spigot (water supply valve hose bib), and hand wring them out, one at a time and place them in a 5-gallon bucket. Depends how dirty the microfibers are. If they have grease or oily spots on them, I will pre-treat the spot(s) with Magic American Products, Inc.`s Goo-Gone or Rust-Oleum`s Krud Kutter Ultra Power Remover (good stuff!) before washing them by hand.

    Then I separate them into what cleaning or detailing products were used with what towels. I say this because the school of thought is you do not want to cross-contaminate towels use with correction and polishing abrasives with those used for applying or wiping off leather or vinyl protectants. That`s the true Autopian and best-practices method, anyway. I say "best-practices", because if most of you Autopians you are like me as a hobbyist detailer, you may only have "a few" microfibers, meaning less than ten, to wash at a time rather than a professional or detailing business who my have 10 of each type of microfibers for each detailing task, meaning they have a 100 or more clothes that can (or need to) be separated for three (3) or four (4) wash loads. And yes, in order for the sake of time and money, (AKA, efficiency) I admit that I have washed different types of microfibers from different detailing task together in ONE LOAD wash cycle, at the risk of cross-contamination. In my defense however, it is also the reason I pre-wash BY HAND my microfibers to mitigate (but not necessarily stop completely) the possibility of product cross-contamination within microfibers when done as a single load. You can decide for yourself if you want to separate and wash towels by type into small loads.

    There is ONE exception of a microfiber type and task I do separately, without question or exception, and that is window/glass cleaning microfibers. I absolutely DO NOT want any detailing product contamination on them whatsoever and it is one of the reasons for causing streaking or the inability of glass cleaning towels or cloths to not clean properly. Because I have so few from a detailing job, I will do them by hand in a kitchen sink.
    How to wash glass cleaning cloths/towels (the Captain Obvious process):
    1) Heat up a quart of distilled or purified water (tap water is OK if it is not too hard) in Pyrex bowl in the microwave for about 5 minutes to get it boiling.
    2) Pour it over the glass cleaning microfiber in the sink having a drain stopper and add another quart of distilled (or tap) water
    3) Add about an ounce or 2 tablespoons of detergent of choice, either special microfiber detergent or liquid laundry detergent (more on that later). I use Tide Ultra Stain Release or Persil ProClean Original.
    4) Using a food tong (the water IS hot!), grab a microfiber cloth and move in back-and-forth in the water several times and then in a circular fashion, swishing it through the water.
    5) When done washing all the towels, using the tong to grab the drain stopper, letting the water out.
    6) Using some more distilled (or tap) water, pour it over the microfibers to initially rinse them.
    7) Hand wring each towel or cloth out and put the drain stopper back in.
    8) Add a two quarts (half gallon) of distilled/purified, (or tap) water AND 4 ounces of white vinegar.
    Yes, you can halve those amounts if you have one or two towels/cloths to clean.
    9) Wearing rubber/latex/nitrile gloves and using your hands, move the microfiber cloths and/or towels through the water-vinegar solution in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the sink, about 8 -12 times.
    10) Remove the drain stopper, lightly hand wring out each cloth and/or towels, and replace drain stopper
    11) Add a two quarts (half gallon) of distilled/purified, (or tap) water
    12) Again using your hands, move the microfiber cloths and/or towels through the rinse water in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the sink, about 8 -12 times.
    13) Remove the drain stopper and TIGHTLY hand wring out each cloth and/or towels.
    14) Place cloths/towels in dryer OR on clothes line to dry. And yes, I do dry them in the dryer at the same time with other microfiber towels I have previously washed.

    Microfiber detergents:
    For machine washing microfiber towel/cloths, you have a plethora of detergent cleaners to choose from, whether special detergents formulated specifically for microfiber cleaning OR home-consumer and commercial laundry detergents. Personally, I do not use special microfiber detergents, so for me to recommend one over an other has no merit or validity. That said, The Rag Company (TRC), a respected high-quality microfiber reseller, recommends P & S Rags-to-Riches Premium Microfiber Towel Detergent.
    Special microfiber detergents by manufacturer - product name:
    McKee`s 37- Microfiber Cleaner and Rejuvenator
    Pinnacle- Micro Rejuvenator Microfiber Detergent Concentrate
    Detail Image- Micro-Restore Microfiber Detergent Concentrate
    Chemical Guy`s- Microfiber Wash Cleaning Detergent
    Adam`s Polishes- Towel and Pad Revitalizer (Spray on the cloth, then wash)
    Griot`s Garage- Microfiber and Foam Pad Cleaner (Spray on the cloth, then wash)
    Poorboy`s World- Typhoon Microfiber Towel Cleaner
    CarPro- MFX Microfiber Detergent
    OBSSSD (Sky`s the Limit)- Microfiber Detergent
    Autofiber- Micro-Restore (The Original Towel Detergent) Their title, not mine
    3D- Kleen Towel Microfiber Towel Detergent
    Malco- Micro-Refresh Concentrated Detergent
    Which one is best, you decide
    Laundry Detergents by manufacturer-name:
    Procter and Gamble- Tide Ultra Stain Release
    Persil- ProClean Original (my preference)
    Earth Friendly Products Inc.- Eco`s Free and Clear (this one is plant based)
    Yes, there are others, but again, you decide.
    I prefer to use liquid detergents, but powders are OK because you are using HOT water and powders will dissolve in the HOT water during the washing cycle. Chances are if you use a commercial laundry detergent it is in powder/flake/granular form.

    Lastly, if you want to add a non-bleach powder, like OXY-Clean, with a detergent, that is up to you. I have added it along with the laundry detergent I am using IF it is an extremely dirty microfiber load. I would NOT recommend its addition if you are using a special microfiber detergent. Then some laundry detergents already have an OXY cleaner in them, so why double up?
    (Edited 17 October, 2023)
    One additional cleaning powder that can be used is Tri-Sodium Phosphate, or TSP. It is a great laundry and, hence microfiber, product for cleaning extremely soiled fabrics, and yes, it is "legally" sold in hardware and home improvement stores because it is technically defined as a "water conditioner". BUT it and its phosphate derivatives have been banned from household detergents in some states due the algae blooms it causes from household water run-off and municipal waste-water treatment plants into lakes and bays, killing fish and affecting the water quality. While I personally do not use it but, as stated, it is available and a very good cleaner. I will let your environmental ethics be your guide in making your personal choice to using this TSP cleaner.

    Using the washing machine for cleaning microfibers:
    There are four (4) hard-fast absolute rules to follow washing microfibers in a machine:
    1) NEVER wash other fabric cleaning cloths/towels with microfibers, like cotton or foam sponges/pads.
    You WILL ruin your microfibers.
    2a) Use "HOT" water for the wash cycle. It does clean better. "Medium Hot" is OK, but "Cold" will not clean completely, in my experience
    2b) Turn up the setting for water temperature to HOT on your hot water heater BEFORE washing. Most hot water heater are set to "low" or "medium" to prevent scalding while taking showers or for energy conservation. It does not have to be set on the highest setting, but it should be hot! Just remember to set it back to its original temperature position when you are done washing to prevent scalding.
    3) NEVER use or add fabric softener with or to microfibers. It will ruin your microfibers and make them less absorbent.
    4) Use two (2) rinse cycles set at medium water temperature, if that option feature can be done with your particular washing machine. I prefer to add white vinegar at the beginning of the first rinse cycle to act as a fabric softener. It also means I need to physically pause newer washing machines right after the wash cycle to allow the self-locking lid/door safety feature to be lifted/opened and add a cup (4 - 8 fluid ounces, depending on the load size (number) of microfibers being washed) of white vinegar before the first rinse cycle begins, then manually restart washer for the rinse cycle.

    What washer setting(s) to use depends on the type of type of washing machine you have at home:
    1) High-Efficiency (HE) top loader
    2) High-efficiency (HE) front loader
    3) Top loader with tub/drum center agitator
    4) Older top loading washing machine with center agitator and mechanical switch settings.

    I prefer to use a "Towel" setting, if you have one or a "Heavy-Duty" setting. I also over-ride the fill setting, if it has one, to "Full". The new HE wash machine use so little water for energy and water conservation, and the more I can use, the cleaner the microfibers get, in my opinion. You may not be able to do that where you live due to local ordinances on water conservation or using a wash machine at a laundromat.

    When the second rinse cycle is done, its time to dry them. You can dry them on a clothes line, indoors or outdoors OR in a machine dryer.
    Using the clothes line for drying microfibers:
    1) If outdoors, wipes off the lines of dirt and bird droppings
    2) If outdoors, make use no one nearby is cutting grass or in the fall if it`s a windy-dry day, leaf litter is not flying around.
    3) If indoors, make sure no one will be cutting materials that produces dust into the air or using a blower to clean the floor (yes, it happens)

    Using the machine dryer for drying microfibers:
    Again like washers, there are different types of dryers, and this is by the energy type used to product the heat: gas (natural or bottled) or electric. I assume all dryers are front-loading.
    As with washers, I check the tub or drum for gunk left behind from the previous cloth-type items last dried. Some will use static-eliminator sprays or dryer sheets. As a rule, I will take some 90% isopropyl alcohol (70% IPA is OK; 90% just evaporates better) on a cotton cloth and wipe out the drum or tub and then re-wipe it with another cotton cloth to insure that the tub/drum is absolutely clean and devoid of any contaminates before I start drying my microfibers. I also check the lint-collection screen and make sure that is free of any lint from the last drying cycle as well. Cotton towels and cotton bedding produce a lot of lint when dried, so just make sure the lint collection screen is clean before you throw in your microfibers of drying.
    As with the washer, there are four (4) hard-fast rules to follow when using a machine dryer for drying microfibers:
    1) NEVER use or apply anti-static sprays on the drum/tub. And yes, microfibers generate a LOT of static electricity due to their polyester and polyamide (nylon) material and the tumbling action between them in a drum/tub. Just live with it and be aware of it as you remove the cloths after drying
    2) NEVER use dryer sheets for fabric softening or static elimination. The chemicals in the dryer sheets for those purposes coat the fine microfibers and render them less absorbent.
    3) NEVER use a HIGH HEAT setting on the dryer, even if you think you need to because of time constraints to get the drying done quickly or the amount of microfibers you are drying. High heat will literally melt the fine microfibers and will render your cloths useless.
    4) If you have THAT many microfiber cloths to dry, do the larger towels first as a separate load. As with washing, there is also the school of thought as to separating the towels/cloths by fiber type and /or task it wash used for. I generally do not, just for the sake of time, BUT you know how many you have and the fact that different microfiber types (waffle-weave, twist loop, suede, high (fluffy) pile, chenille noodle (wash media), flat or close pile) will each have their own drying times, depending on how many there are in a load and how dry they are when thrown in the dryer from the spin cycle of the washer, OR if you wrung them out after a hand wash cleaning.
    As far as dryer settings, I suggest using "Medium" to "Medium-High" heat setting and a "Towels" setting. Most newer dryers have sensors to detect the amount of moisture or dryness, so if you have such a setting as that, I suggest "Partially Dry", but not "Damp" or fully "Dry". If it is an older drying, you may only have a time setting and that is guess work based on load size, microfiber type, and how damp or wet the microfibers were when you threw them in. It might take some trial-and-error experimenting to get it right, but with older dryers, you can easily stop the drying cycle, feel the microfibers, and adjust the time or heat setting if need be to go get the drying done.

    Once the microfibers are dry, you can sort and fold them as need be by fiber type and task usage. I know some of you have hard-plastic storage bins/containers marked and labeled accordingly for this purpose. If you have only a few, it may be best to store them in clear plastic gallon-size (or larger) food bags to keep them clean and not get contaminated with dust and debris while stored.

    I hope this article helps with cleaning and drying your microfibers. As stated at the beginning, these instructions and guidelines are based on my experience, and they are just that; my suggestions.
    As Autopian All-Star contributor extraordinaire Accumulator states, "Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV)"
    If you have additional comments, suggestions or corrections, please add them to this discussion thread.
    And if you made it this far, Thanks for reading.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Captain Obvious
    GB detailer
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  2. #2

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    Re: How to Wash and Dry Microfiber Towels and Cloths (by Captain Obvious)

    Great info!!

  3. #3

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    Re: How to Wash and Dry Microfiber Towels and Cloths (by Captain Obvious)

    Well if I had looked below in this sub-topic "Member How-to Library" I would have noticed there already WAS a thread topic on this very subject!!
    Reference:Ultimate Microfiber Towel Care Guide by Liquid Finish
    Good info there and better organized and written by Liquid Finish (the Original Poster or "OP") than my post.

    Biggest difference is the list of microfiber specific detergents that did not exist at the time of the referenced post (February 2014) and how to clean a washing machine BEFORE you start washing microfibers. Just an observation....

    Also, would be interested in hearing about what name brand/manufacturer and type of washing machine you Autopians are using and what specific machine settings you are using on that particular washing machine to get your microfiber towels/cloths/pads clean, since the newer machines have a myriad of setting/options to choose from.
    GB detailer

  4. #4

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    Re: How to Wash and Dry Microfiber Towels and Cloths (by Captain Obvious)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lonnie View Post
    Biggest difference is the list of microfiber specific detergents that did not exist at the time of the referenced post (February 2014)
    I think a lot of those detergents were extant in 2014, and if we follow your lead and try to promote the forum sponsors, you left out the DP, Wolfgang, and Blackfire washes. Also I`ll point out that TRC recommends Rags to Riches because it is their co-branded product.

 

 

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